When we heard the news that a Keene city councilor wants the city to mandate the wearing of masks in businesses, our initial reaction was one of support. We’ve made clear our perspective on social distancing, the wearing of masks in public — especially closed-in — places, and other precautions necessary to inhibit the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Social distancing has been a necessary move, and probably ought to continue for quite some time if the goal is to end the pandemic. It really should have begun much sooner, as even the president has acknowledged (though, of course, he blames others for his failure to heed the warnings he was given).
Masks, at least those most of us have access to, may not be ideal at stopping the spread of the virus, but it seems clear to us they help, and ought to be worn inside businesses and in tight quarters anywhere. We can’t say often enough that A) The masks are not meant to protect the person wearing them, though it may contribute some in doing that; they’re meant to keep the wearer from infecting others. B) It doesn’t matter whether one feels symptoms of the virus; the point is that those who feel perfectly healthy can spread it for weeks before they realize — if they ever do — that they’ve had it.
So any step the city can take — as Brattleboro, the states of Vermont, Massachusetts, Maine and others have done — to compel people to take this sensible step, is a good move. We’re not certain the city has the authority to enforce such a mandate — New Hampshire law is usually pretty rigid about municipalities creating laws the Legislature hasn’t said they could create. And the governor has been little help, saying he urges people to wear masks, but won’t compel them to. But Keene has gone its own way before, enacting a smoking ban in restaurants when the state said it couldn’t enforce such a thing. Local restaurants abided by it anyway, and eventually the state followed suit. The same dynamic occurred with synthetic marijuana; the city said no, store owners stopped selling it, and the state caught up later.
Clearly, the push to reopen businesses and return to a more “normal” lifestyle — you know, with shorter hair and newly cleaned teeth — is making headway. The Keene Family YMCA announced this week it will ramp up allowing more members to work out there, including some limited classes. Some schools are preparing for “socially distanced” graduation ceremonies. And the NHL has announced a plan — flawed as it is — to complete its 2019-20 season, even as other major sports leagues contemplate their returns.
But the other local news that caught our attention was that the Redeeming Grace Church in Jaffrey plans to hold indoor, in-person, Sunday services this weekend for the first time since the governor issued his initial stay-at-home order.
Pastor Jeffrey Tibbetts says parishioners can choose to socially distance at the service ... or not. We’d hope the congregation members are attentive enough to each other’s needs that they’ll respect those who are trying to stay clear, but you never know. That’s a pretty big “or not.”
“I want people on both sides to be able to be comfortable,” Tibbets told the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript. “As long as people are honoring one another, I think we’ll be OK.”
There’s no doubt the grand reopening of America is just beginning. There are solid economic reasons for it to happen at some point, though at exactly what point is hard to peg. Every step ought to be weighed, as each is potentially fatal to some.
In fact, on Friday, Gov. Sununu issued another order, allowing churches to resume indoor services — at up to 40 percent capacity, and with social distancing.
We, too, hope Tibbetts’ flock “honors” one another. It is, after all, a place of worship.
If you can’t have faith there, where can you?